Is shared parental leave and pay working? The initiative brought in in 2015 has shown to be less popular than originally anticipated. The changes in 2015 on both shared parental leave and shared parental pay have meant the HR sector getting to grips with the raft of complex regulations and drafting detailed policies to explain the new entitlements to staff. Parental leave was an initiative by the government to attempt to help women who would usually take maternity leave to maintain their careers. However, the expected surge of applications to take shared parental leave failed to materialise; estimates suggest that just 9,200 new parents took advantage of the government’s Shared Parental Leave scheme during the 12 months ending in March this year. Here are some of the key points of Parental pay:
• Qualifying mothers and adopters continue to be entitled to Maternity and Adoption rights, but they may also be able to choose to end this early and exchange it for Shared Parental Leave and Pay. They and their named partner will then need to decide how they want to share this new entitlement.
• Two weeks of paid Paternity Leave continues to be available to qualifying fathers and the partner of a mother or adopter. However, Shared Parental Leave has replaced the Additional Paternity Leave entitlement.
There are several key reasons to why shared parental leave has failed to take off. Financially, for many couples, it is entirely rational for the partner who earns less to stay at home. Statutory shared parental pay is currently £140.98 a week (or 90 per cent of average weekly earnings, if lower), which won’t pay a mortgage for many. While lots of employers offer enhanced maternity pay, the entitlement of those taking shared parental leave is less clear. Workplace culture has also had an affect on shared parental leave; Johnathan Swan head of research at charity Working Families suggested that “workplace cultures do not support the idea of men taking longer periods out of the workplace for childcare’’.
Finally, a lack of understanding by employees on SPL has hindered applications for parental leave and pay. The research report ‘return to work: parental decision making’, revealed that “parents often lack a sound understanding of SPL eligibility rules, and are not aware that it is a legal entitlement for eligible parents”. Some of the small sample of parents taking part in the qualitative element of the research said they thought access to SPL was at their employer’s discretion.
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